Our eyes can’t see a fragrance wafting through the air, but its presence is known and has the power to put us at ease, or make us feel refreshed.
We light candles at home to help us to slip into an after-work unwind, or to lift our spirits when we need a little boost.
Since scents are such a personal experience, it’s extra special when you know your candles were mixed and poured by hand instead of factory-made.
Even though that process may be messy and time consuming, the two-woman team behind the Singapore brand, Hush Candle, devote themselves to it tirelessly.
Producing all their candles and fragrances by themselves from home, they’ve moulded a business that took shape from nothing, into a recognised and trusted local brand.
Anyone Can Follow A Recipe, But Few Master It
Prior to their entrepreneurial journey, Nicole Su (29), a Communications graduate from NUS, and Chelsea Low (26), a Business graduate from RMIT, met and became friends while working for the same public relations company.
Besides being colleagues, they both had a love for candles and home fragrances in common, and eventually took action to explore their shared interest.
Just like any other DIY project, they simply needed to find instructions from forums, books, or online videos, and proceed to get their hands dirty.
“It’s pretty straightforward, actually,” Nicole says about the candle-making process.
She explained that there are just three steps, mainly: melting the wax, mixing in essential oils, and letting the candle cure into shape.
However, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Carrying this passion beyond just a leisurely past-time, the ladies were inspired to start selling their homemade candles to fill a gap in the market.
Up till then, they felt that most mainstream brands marked up their prices too much, or created candles with overly artificial scents.
As they set out to introduce Hush Candle to customers for the first time, they firmly decided theirs would be a brand that focuses only on authentic, all-natural products.
1.5 Years To Gain Confidence In Going Full Time
Preparation for their launch included organising focus groups and conducting surveys to gather customers’ sentiments, as well as extensive trial and error to perfect their candle recipes.
Their consumer research helped Nicole and Chelsea choose three products to start with, which were lavender, rose and lemongrass scented soy candles.
“These three scents were the most popular, and since we were a new brand, we wanted to create something with smells that people already recognise in their heads,” Nicole says.
“We go back to basics and keep it simple. So when a customer smells our lavender candle, what they get is an authentic lavender fragrance,” she adds.
Customers in Singapore got the first whiff of Hush Candle at a market organised by The Local People in June 2015.
Starting out in a physical space instead of launching online gave customers the opportunity to discover them and experience the quality of their fragrances in person.
However, it still took the founders a year and a half before they decided to put all their chips into candle-making.
Although they were confident of the formulas they tried and tested meticulously, they weren’t immediately confident of leaving their full time jobs for this new business.
Eventually this changed as customers recognised Hush Candle through their presence at numerous markets, and the brand’s name spread through positive word-of-mouth.
As Nicole and Chelsea set aside their careers in PR to fully focus on their company, they also began to see interest from stockists around the island, and even across the borders in Malaysia.
To be recognised and stocked with large names like Robinsons and Tangs, Nicole says “it’s nice that they acknowledge we have a good brand and they’re willing to have us on board”.
Struggles That Come With Keeping It Natural
In the mass market, there are some benefits to using synthetic materials and ingredients. For one, they can be tailored to certain requirements. On the other hand, they’re also usually cheaper to produce.
For a small brand to keep strictly “all natural”, they take on additional hurdles in their process for the sake of quality.
The Hush founders have had to sacrifice cheaper costs to choose pure essential oils which are more expensive, and also more complex to work with at times.
“The trickiest part is finding the right proportion of essential oils [to mix into] a certain amount of wax,” Nicole says.
“Different types of natural essential oils also need to be treated at specific temperatures [for the best results].”
From 3 Candles To 3 Product Lines
Ever since the pair started making candles in Chelsea’s home, they’ve gone from making three scented candles to expanding their product range.
All this, while still operating out of the same apartment unit with just the two of them for manpower.
Hush Candle has grown to produce room sprays and essential oil roll-ons, beyond their original offering of candles.
And from time to time, they get creative with some special seasonal items, like an eerie melting baby’s head they made for Halloween.
One way they didn’t expect to grow was through their customers’ demand for candle-making workshops.
“Initially, we didn’t intend to do workshops, but lots of demand came in,” says Nicole.
Like everything else, they organised and taught the classes themselves.
With fantastic response at their first run in mid 2017, Nicole and Chelsea committed to making public workshops a permanent offering that customers can sign up for on their website monthly.
On top of that, they also frequently get engaged for private events and corporate functions.
Finding A New Home, Here And Abroad
Their flame has burned for three and a half years, and the entrepreneurs continue to see encouraging signs that affirm their efforts, and remind them that the demand for home fragrances hasn’t fizzled out.
“During the most recent Black Friday weekend, we received over 200 orders, which we did not expect at all.”
“Although it was a crazy rush, it was fulfilling to know that there’s a healthy demand for our products, especially from both new and repeated customers,” Nicole says.
They’re all geared up to take on more orders during this season of giving, with curated gift boxes made to usher in the festivities with warmth glows and sweet fragrances.
Beyond the end-of-year shopping boom, the founders of Hush Candle have bigger plans to put in action when a new year comes round the corner.
Nicole shares that they’re finally looking to move out of Chelsea’s apartment into a proper production space, which can enable them to begin scaling their business.
“We want to expand internationally, especially starting within Southeast Asia, as we feel the region has great potential for such artisan lifestyle products.”
Hush Candle has come so far, growing from a DIY project into a trusted small business, and we hope to see them soon join the ranks of Singapore brands that spread their wings worldwide!
This article was first published in Vulcan Post.